The Fly is a 1958 American science fiction-horror film produced and directed by Kurt Neumann. The screenplay was written by James Clavell (his first), from the short story of the same name by George Langelaan. It tells a story of a Scientist who switches his DNA with a fly while testing out his latest invention. It was followed by two sequels, Return of the Fly and Curse of the Fly. It was remade in 1986 as a film of the same name by director David Cronenberg.
In Montreal, Quebec, scientist Andre Delambre is found dead with his head and arm crushed in a hydraulic press. Although his wife Helene confesses to the crime, she refuses to provide a motive and exhibits a number of strange behaviors. In particular, she is obsessed with flies, including a supposedly white-headed fly. Andre's brother, Francois, lies and says he caught the white-headed fly and, thinking he knows the truth, Helene explains the circumstances surrounding Andre's death.
In flashback, Andre, Helene, and their son Philippe are a happy family. Andre has been working on a matter transporter device called the disintegrator-integrator. He initially tests it only on small inanimate objects, but eventually proceeds to living creatures, including the family's pet cat (which fails to reintegrate, but can be heard meowing somewhere) and a guinea pig. After he is satisfied that these tests are succeeding, he builds a man-sized pair of chambers. One day, Helene, worried since Andre has not come up from the basement lab for a couple of days, goes down to find Andre with a black cloth over his head and a strange deformity on his left hand. Communicating with typed notes only, Andre tells Helene that he tried to transport himself, but a fly got caught in the chamber with him, which resulted in the mixing of their atoms. Now he has the head and left arm of a fly, and the fly has his miniature head and left arm, though he keeps his mind.
Andre needs Helene to capture the fly so he can reverse the process. Although she expends great effort in her search, she cannot find it and Andre's will begins to fade as the fly's instincts take over his brain. Time is running out, and while Andre can still think like a human, he smashes the equipment, burns his notes, and leads Helene to the factory. When they arrive, he sets the hydraulic press and motions for Helene to push the button. She activates the press twice - once to crush his head and once to crush his left arm.
The police, hearing this confession, deem Helene insane and guilty of murder. As they are about to haul her away, Andre's son Philippe tells Francois he's seen the fly trapped in a web in the back garden. Francois convinces the inspector to come and see for himself. The two men see the fly, trapped in the web, with both Andre's head and arm, looking terrified. It screams "Help me! Help me!" as a large brown spider advances on the creature. Just as the fly is about to be devoured by the spider, the inspector smashes them both with a rock. Thinking nobody would believe the truth, he and Francois decide to lie about the facts of the case so that Helene isn't convicted of murder. In the end, Helene, Francois and Philippe resume their daily lives, with Francois explaining to Philippe that Andre died doing the most dangerous act to humanity, but also the most beneficial: "the search for the truth".
Al Hedison as Andre Delambre
Patricia Owens as Helene Delambre
Vincent Price as Francois Delambre
Herbert Marshall as Inspector Charas
Kathleen Freeman as Emma
Betty Lou Gerson as Nurse Andersone
Charles Herbert as Philippe Delambre
[icon] This section requires expansion. (November 2014)
There are notable differences in the film from the short story.
Helene tells Francois and Charas about the circumstances leading to Andre's death rather than explaining it to Francois through a manuscript.
When Andre goes through the transmitter at Helene's suggestion to reverse the transformation, he does not gain the atoms of the family cat.
Helene commits suicide in the short story, but lives in the film.
At the end of the short story, Francois gives Charas the manuscript, which they destroy. Francois then tells Charas that he buried a fly at Andre's grave site - a fly with a white head and arm. At the end of the movie, Francois and Charas find the fly with Andre's head and arm trapped in a web screaming for help about to be eaten by a spider. Charas uses a rock to crush them both and he and Francois agree to lie about what happened to Andre knowing that no one would believe the truth.
The Fly received positive recognition from both critics and audiences. It holds a 95% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and has been nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. The film has also received four out of five stars on Allmovie. The film was a commercial success, grossing $3 million at the domestic box office against a budget of less than $500,000. It earned $1.7 million in theatrical rentals.
American Film Institute Lists
AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills - Nominated
AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes:
"Help me! Help me!" - Nominated
Sequels and remake
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The film spawned two sequels, Return of the Fly in 1959 and Curse of the Fly in 1965. There was also a remake of the same name in 1986 directed by David Cronenberg, which itself had a sequel, 1989's The Fly II.